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East Aurora police have accused the Varysburg postmaster of breaking into a former co-worker's home and ambushing the man with a crossbow.

An arrow fired from the crossbow arrow missed the intended victim's head by just inches, authorities said.

John W. Burnham, 56, the postmaster, was being held in the Erie County Holding Center on $100,000 bail. He was charged with burglary, reckless endangerment, criminal possession of a weapon and petit larceny.

Burnham might face more serious charges once the case goes to a grand jury in a few weeks, according to Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark.

Police said Burnham was armed with a crossbow and two hunting knives Wednesday afternoon when he entered the home of Gregory Trane, 58, on West Fillmore Avenue.

Money might have been the motive, police say. Co-workers were aware that Trane recently received a sizable inheritance, and Burnham is accused of taking several hundred dollars from the home.

East Aurora Police Lt. Ronald McCabe said Burnham entered through a broken window, ransacked the home and stole the cash. Then he apparently hid behind a door and waited.

At about 5:30 p.m., as Trane entered the bathroom, Burnham fired a single arrow at him, officers said.

"The projectile came within 6 inches of (Trane)," Clark said. "Apparently, the defendant was the victim's boss in the postal office several years ago."

Trane fled, but Burnham tackled him in the yard. The fight that followed broke up when a neighbor yelled at them, officers said.

Within minutes, police arrived to investigate a report of a burglary in progress. Officer Darren Longboat said he saw Burnham running from the area and arrested him.

Police said they were looking into the relationship between Trane and Burnham.

"We do not believe there's been contact between (Trane and Burnham) since the 1990s," McCabe said. "Trane was in a healthy financial position. He had received an inheritance, (which) was known by other employees."

In the 1990s, Burnham had been Trane's supervisor when the two worked at the same post office, officers said. Trane now works as a mail handler at the William Street Post Office in Buffalo, police said.

The U.S. Postal Inspectors office has joined the investigation because Burnham and Trane are both Postal Service employees, McCabe said.

Burnham was scheduled to appear next Wednesday in East Aurora Village Court.


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